For hundreds of volunteers, making the mammoth Ladies Board Rummage Sale run smoothly means a full week of fun, hard work and hustle. And for three generations in one Purcellville clan, it’s a family affair.
This year’s rummage sale will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Morven Park Equestrian Center north of Leesburg. The sale’s new co-chair, Megan O’Brien, has been working with her mother, teen sons, sister, niece and nephew all week and throughout the year to get ready—from working at donation drops in the months leading up to the sale to the all-hands-on-deck whirlwind that is prep week to the non-stop action of the two-day sale.
For O’Brien, volunteering is both exhausting and incredibly rewarding, and this year she takes it up a notch, running the show with her friend and fellow Ladies Board member, Joylyn Hannahs.
“I remember a moment last year when the sale came to a close, we came to a kind of hug huddle,” O’Brien said. “It’s such a long tiring week and to see people of all ages working so hard, there’s great joy in it. That’s probably what the kids take away from it in their world of cellphones and digital devices. There’s an emotion to it.”
O’Brien’s mother, Mary Paul Jones, started volunteering at the sale in the early 1970s, not long after her family moved to the western Loudoun village of Lincoln. Jones was a member of the hospital ladies board for nearly a decade, then took a 25-year hiatus when she went back to teaching at Leesburg Elementary School. When Jones retired in 2011, she headed straight back to the sale and was recruited to help run the busy and popular furniture department, bringing in O’Brien, another daughter, Wendy Lockhart, and Wendy’s son, Justin Lockhart, who’s now a senior at Loudoun Valley High School. Justin’s sister, Morgan, and her cousins, John and Sam O’Brien, who all now attend Loudoun Valley, came on board five years ago, and it’s now a full-on family tradition.
“I love to volunteer at the rummage sale because I like to help out my grandma because I know it’s really important to her and her friends who are also involved. My grandma has been involved for a long time so it’s fun to carry out the tradition. It is also fun because my cousins and my brother help out. It’s a way we can spend time together and help out a good cause,” said 15-year-old Morgan Lockhart, who has been volunteering at the sale since 2014.
The rummage sale has a healthy tradition of youth volunteers, from middle and high schoolers on the Columbus Day holiday that often falls on the first day of sale setup to homeschool students helping throughout the week, to an occasional skip day for a great cause.
“They just think this is the greatest thing in the world. It’s so nice to see kids today taking time to volunteer at a rummage sale,” Jones said.
The teens are on hand to help with sorting donations, moving furniture and larger donations and helping shoppers load cars on sale days. Jones’ grandkids also help out on donation days throughout the year leading up to the sale, unloading donations and loading trailers to head to Morven Park.
And their energy and enthusiasm can make a big difference in a volunteer pool still dominated by retirees. Justin Lockhart, who’s now over 6 feet tall, has a reputation as the muscle in the furniture department for his tireless ability to move heavy pieces.
“They really work and they’re so excited about it. I think they have this on their calendar as much as we do,” O’Brien said. “And they love the lunch, too.”
Area businesses and individuals donate catered lunches for sale volunteers every year, another big selling point for volunteers.
O’Brien, who runs a marketing firm in downtown Leesburg, and Hannahs, a photographer, are both Loudoun natives and part of a new generation of leaders on the Ladies Board. In recent years, a new crop of Generation X chairwomen have made changes to bring the 81-year-old sale into the 21st Century, mixing old traditions with current trends.
After seeing the success of The Look upscale clothing department launched several years ago, Hannahs and O’Brien are updating several other departments. The high-end housewares department formerly known as the Boutique is now rebranded as The Nest, while the antiques department is now known as Vintage in an effort to attract GenX and millennial collectors.
Organizers are also expanding the furniture department with a new outdoor living space in a tent outside the main barn. This year, the sale is also catering to collectors by offering expanded early bird hours for hardcore rummagers, moving the VIP window from one to two hours. For $15, shoppers can get in at 8 a.m. and shop for two hours before the big crowds arrive when free admission begins at 10 a.m. This gives serious shoppers more time to tackle the sprawling equestrian center, which includes a main barn with furniture, housewares and clothing and outbuildings with toys, books and holiday decor.
The changes are going over well with department chairs, many of whom have been working the sale for decades and several of whom are in their 80s.
“We’re more than happy to see the young women with their enthusiasm. Everything needs to change a little” Jones said.
But both O’Brien and Jones agree that the traditions are what make volunteering so rewarding.
“I think it’s the camaraderie in your department and enjoying people you see once a year and getting to hear about their life and working together. It’s a good kind of tired,” Jones said. “You really feel that you’ve accomplished something.”